Since Sunday, May 31, after a two-month long nationwide lockdown was lifted, Bangladesh has witnessed a record number of deaths due to COVID every single day. At present, official figures show that there are 87,520 confirmed cases and 1,171 deaths, though real figures are believed to be higher. As massive commotion and crises sweep through the country, public healthcare systems are failing largely, resulting in no signs of the COVID-19 contraction curve plateauing.
Incompetency of public healthcare amid the pandemic crisis
On June 8, when a virtual high court headed by Justice M Enayetur Rahim inquired about the healthcare facilities in the country, the Department of Health released the following information: there are only 1,000 intensive care unit (ICU) beds for a total population of 165 million, combining the capacity of the public and private sectors. According to reports, there are no ICU facilities in 47 districts out of 64 districts in Bangladesh. This huge shortage of intensive care units means that a lot of people in critical conditions have to delay treatment amidst the surge of Covid-19 -patients.
Journalist Shuprova Tasneem tweeted:
DGHS response to High Court order. There are only 733 ICU beds in government hospitals. This is what decades of underfunding the health sector, mismanagement and corruption does. Our health system is not equipped to deal with this health crisishttps://t.co/w2dm42Rd6u
— Shuprova Tasneem (@ShuprovaTasneem) June 10, 2020
On June 12, 2020, Maria Taha from Chittagong was seen pleading for her Covid-19 infected father on Facebook :
একটা icu কেউ manaz করে দিতে পারবেন
আমার আব্বুর জন্য
Can anyone help secure an ICU bed for my father?
A few hours later she updated her post announcing the death of her father:
লাগবে না ICU. আর
We won't require an ICU. Anymore.
Md. Atiqur Rahman reacted to Maria Taha's situation:
চট্টগ্রাম এ চিকিৎসা সংকট নিয়ে বেশ কয়েকদিন ধরেই নানান খবর পাচ্ছিলাম। দিন দিন তা যে আরও খারাপ/প্রকট হচ্ছে তার-ই নমুনা এই ঘটনাটি। না, এটি কোন বিচ্ছিন্ন ঘটনা নয়; এটাই স্বাভাবিক ও তিক্ত সত্য।
We were getting bits and pieces of news about the crisis in public health in Chittagong due to covid-19. It is becoming worse day-by-day and this incident is a testimony to that. This is not an isolated situation; this is the new normal and a bitter truth.
There is also a shortage of oxygen in hospital, because a number of affluent people are stockpiling oxygen cylinders in fear of Covid-19, thus failing the public health system. Since Bangladesh depends greatly on imports to sustain medical supplies, which have been temporarily stopped, the shortage of oxygen-providing equipment in public hospitals is a real challenge. Providing oxygen is one of the main methods of facilitating treatments for COVID-19 patients.
As netizen Masud Karim tweets:
— masudkarim মাসুদকরিম (@urumurum) June 7, 2020
The suffering isn't limited to coronavirus patients, however; non-COVID patients with respiratory diseases are also being denied treatment as fears of them being asymptomatic carriers of the virus lingers around.
Insufficient protection for frontline medical professionals
Frontline doctors and medical professionals are similarly falling victim to the faltering state of the nation's current healthcare systems. As many as 1,169 doctors got infected till the second week of June, 2020 and 35 doctors died from COVID-19.
Insufficient supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the country means more doctors and nurses are at risk. There are no available statistics as to how many medics are under treatment, observing home quarantine, or have been infected, but this is bound to become a colossal issue to handle.
“#Nurses & #midwives are #frontline healthcare workers resonding to #COVID19, and this means they must protect themselves. They must have proper #PPE. They should also have the proper training on how to use PPE effectively.” – Dr Dewan Emdadul Hoque, @UNFPA #Bangladesh pic.twitter.com/mEP0eKNEKm
— UNFPA Bangladesh (@UNFPABangladesh) June 6, 2020
Bangladesh lifts lockdown amidst surging number of infections
Despite the surging number of Covid-19 cases, Bangladesh lifted its lockdown on May 31, 2020. Experts say that the infection numbers were on the rise because the several phases of lockdowns, which were termed general holidays, were not strictly followed.
♦️করোনা আক্রান্তের সংখ্যায় চীনকে ছাড়াল বাংলাদেশ..!
♦️গত বছরের ডিসেম্বরের শেষ দিকে করোনাভাইরাস মহামারী শুরু হয়েছিল চীন থেকে। সেই দেশটি একে একে ১৮টি দেশের পেছনে পড়ে গেল। এবার আক্রান্তের সংখ্যায় তাদের পেছনে ফেলল বাংলাদেশও।
Bangladesh has surpassed China with the number of Covid-19 affected people (ranking 18th).
Covid-19 started in China last December. In 18 countries of the world, the number of infected is more than China now.
Is zone-wise lockdown the answer?
On June 10, Supreme Court Advocate Manzil Morshed filed a writ petition on behalf of lawyer Mahbubul Islam seeking a complete lockdown in Dhaka to curb the coronavirus transmission.
Since June 9, 2020, Bangladesh started testing a system of zone-wise lockdown marking regions in red, yellow and green depending on the severity of COVID-19 contraction by the locals, in order to limit the transmission of the virus. A region is marked as a red if 40 out of 100,000 people in the area tested positive for COVID-19. These red zones are put under strict lockdown whereby people are not be allowed to leave their homes, and gates are closed to outsiders.
The crowded Rohingya Refugee Camps in Cox's Bazar have also been put under close-guard as the number of corona-positive cases crossed 35, with approximately 5 officially-recorded deaths.
Filmmaker Shafiur Rahman tweeted:
— Shafiur Rahman (@shafiur) June 8, 2020
However, the implementation of the zone-wise lockdown will be challenging as Dr Parvez Reza tweets:
— Dr. Parvez Reza (@DrParvezReza2) June 11, 2020
Translation of the notice: The department of health has designated East Rajabazar area as Red Zone and declared a lockdown to stop the spread of Covid-19 infection. GOING OUT IS FORBIDDEN!
The national advisory committee on COVID-19 has recently suggested that the lockdown should cover as much of the risky zone as possible to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The full implementation of the area-wise lockdowns in the country is scheduled to begin by mid-June.
Netizen Soykat Bin Rahman tweeted:
As coronavirus cases and fatalities continue to rise in Bangladesh, the government has taken all necessary preparations to bring hotspots (red zone) under lockdown and will declare closure in those areas to prevent entry and exit.
— 🇧🇩 Soykat Bin Rahman 🇺🇸 (@MdShaheenPervez) June 13, 2020
Dr. Ashikur Rahman thinks that Bangladesh needs a strict lockdown:
Bangladesh needs to impose a strict lockdown before this #Covid-19 wave turns into a Tsunami. Time is no longer a luxury as people are dying on the streets. I hope and pray a policy correction happens. #Bangladesh
— Ashikur Rahman (@Dr_Ashikur) June 13, 2020